Santino Marella was one of the funniest men in the WWE back when he was working for the company. But the now-retired wrestler was all business when he suggested that James Ellsworth, a smaller competitor also working a comedy gimmick, is setting a lot of small wrestlers up for disappointment due to his surprising success story.
Although Santino Marella never made it past WWE’s mid-card, he entertained fans with his “Milan Miracle” persona. Billed as a native of Italy — he was born and raised in Canada as Anthony Carelli — Santino spoke in a thick faux-Italian accent, mispronounced words for comedic effect, and took down opponents with his Cobra Strike, a simple thrust to the face with his right hand and arm covered by a green-and-yellow sock. He retired in 2014 after a series of injuries and made occasional appearances on WWE television before getting released in May 2016.
Marella may have been out there to make WWE audiences laugh, but outside the ring, he’s gotten recognition as a legitimate fighter who now helps train athletes in his Battle Arts Academy training facility in Ontario. Yet he still was able to put all that, as well as his judo and amateur wrestling experience, behind him as he competed in WWE.
Speaking on the a recent episode of The Steve Austin Show, Santino Marella told “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (quotes c/o Wrestling Inc) that he was told early on by well-known wrestling trainer Rip Rogers that pro wrestling is a form or entertainment and that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, or if wrestlers are asked to do unrealistic things. He also admitted to thinking early on in his wrestling career that wrestling is “partially shoot,” or partly grounded in legitimate athletic competition.
“The physical side was easy, but the psychology side was a little more difficult. That’s what I needed Rip Rogers (for). My first wrestling match, someone put in a word for me. I had a little match in Ontario and I swear I thought it was partially shoot because Coach is telling me, ‘Listen, don’t let these guys take advantage. If they’re going to start giving you the beats, don’t sell it. Take over.'”
Santino also named a couple of former WWE talents whom he believes would have thought they could become world champions in WWE if pro wrestling was 100 percent unscripted, legitimate competition.
“Shelton Benjamin comes to mind. Bobby Lashley, like, tough guys, badass, wicked wrestlers, and in the back of their head, I could tell they wanted to say, ‘if this was real, I would be the champion,’ but it’s not real. It’s entertainment.”
Lashley, who fights in both TNA and Bellator MMA, is listed at close to 280 pounds, while Benjamin, like Marella, was regularly billed around the 240-pound mark during his WWE days. As such, Santino believes that small wrestlers have been given unnecessarily high hopes by the likes of James Ellsworth, who became a cult favorite among WWE fans this year for his comedic underdog persona. Healthy Celeb lists Ellsworth as standing 5’9″ and weighing 176 pounds, making him well below average compared to other WWE Superstars.
Santino also mentioned Spike Dudley as another wrestler who may have raised expectations too much for the little guys — Dudley, who had a long, successful career in ECW, WWE, and TNA, was a former schoolteacher often billed at around 145 pounds.
“There (are) guys like, right now, James Ellsworth or Spike Dudley, and just having them kept that hope alive, so there is a chance because those guys have been there and from time to time they get these little, scrawny guys and it sets up a lot of these kids for disappointment,” remarked Marella.
Is James Ellsworth really getting hopes up too high for those sub-200-pounders who want to get into pro wrestling, as Santino Marella had suggested? It may or may not be true, considering how WWE is giving more chances to smaller wrestlers, but in the now-famous words of Ellsworth, “any man with two hands has a fighting chance.”
[Featured Image by WWE]